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Uri Avnery: The Night After

The Night After

By Uri Avnery
Tel Aviv 09.04.03 and 12.04.03

Some more thought about the war (5):

# The next war. It is now fashionable to talk about "the day after". Let's talk about the night after.

After the end of hostilities in Iraq, the world will be faced with two decisive facts:

First, the immense superiority of American arms can beat any people in the world, valiant as it may be.

Second, the small group that initiated this war - an alliance of Christian fundamentalists and Jewish neo-conservatives - has won big, and from now on it will control Washington almost without limits.

The combination of these two facts constitutes a danger to the world, and especially to the Middle East, the Arab peoples and the future of Israel. Because this alliance is the enemy of peaceful solutions, the enemy of the Arab governments, the enemy of the Palestinian people and especially the enemy of the Israeli peace camp.

It does not dream only about an American empire, in the style of the Roman one, but also of an Israeli mini-empire, under the control of the extreme right and the settlers. It wants to change the regimes in all Arab countries. It will cause permanent chaos in the region, the consequences of which it is impossible to foresee.

Its mental world consists of a mixture of ideological fervor and crass material interests, an exaggerated American patriotism and right-wing Zionism.

That is a dangerous mixture. There is in it something of the spirit of Ariel Sharon, a man who has always had grandiose plans for changing the region, consisting of a mixture of creative imagination, unbridled chauvinism and a primitive faith in brute force.

# Who are the winners? They are the so-called neo-cons, or neo-conservatives.

A compact group, almost all of whose members are Jewish. They hold the key positions in the Bush administration, as well as in the think-tanks that play an important role in formulating American policy and the ed-op pages of the influential newspapers.

For many years, this was a marginal group that fostered a right-wing agenda in all fields. They fought against abortion, homosexuality, pornography and drugs. When Binyamin Netanyahu assumed power in Israel, they offered him advise on how to fight the Arabs.

Their big moment arrived with the collapse of the Twin Towers. The American public and politicians were in a state of shock, completely disoriented, unable to understand a world that had changed overnight. The neo-cons were the only group with a ready explanation and a solution. Only nine days after the outrage, William Kristol (the son of the group's founder, Irving Kristol) published an Open Letter to President Bush, asserting that it was not enough to annihilate the network of Osama bin Laden, but that it was also imperative to "remove Saddam Hussein from power" and to "retaliate" against Syria and Iran for supporting Hizbullah.

Following is a short list of the main characters. (If it bores you, skip to the next section).

The Open Letter was published in the Weekly Standard, founded by Kristol with the money of ultra-right press mogul Rupert Murdoch, who donated $ 10 million to the cause. It was signed by 41 leading neo-cons, including Norman Podhoretz, a Jewish former leftist who has become an extreme right-wing icon, editor of the prestigious Encounter magazine, and his wife, Midge Decter, also a writer, Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Studies, Robert Kagan, also of the Weekly Standard, Charles Krauthammer of the Washington Post, and, of course, Richard Perle.

Perle is a central character in this play. Until recently he was the chairman of the Defense Policy Board of the Defense Department, which also includes Eliot Cohen and Devon Cross. Perle is a director of the Jerusalem Post, now owned by extreme right-wing Zionists. In the past he was an aide to Senator Henry Jackson, who led the fight against the Soviet Union on behalf of the Jews who wanted to leave. He is a leading member of the influential right-wing American Enterprise Institute. Lately he was obliged to resign from his Defense Department position, when it became known that a private corporation had promised to pay him almost a million dollars for he benefit of his influence in the administration.

That Open Letter was, in effect, the beginning of the Iraq war. It was eagerly received by the Bush administration, with members of the group already firmly established in some of its leading positions. Paul Wolfowitz, the father of the war, is No. 2 in the Defense Department, where another friend of Perle's, Douglas Feith, heads the Pentagon Planning Board. John Bolton is State Department Undersecretary. Eliot Abrams, responsible for the Middle East in the National Security Council, was connected with the Iran-Contra-Israel scandal. The main hero of the scandal, Oliver North, sits in the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, together with Michael Ledeen, another hero of the scandal. Headvocates total war not only against Iraq, but also against Israel's other enemies, Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian Authority. Dov Zakheim is comptroller for the Defense Department.

Most of these people , together with Vice-President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, are associated with the "Project for the New American Century", which published a White Paper in 2002, with the aim ‘to preserve and enhance this ‘American peace'" - meaning American control of the world.

Meyrav Wurmser (Meyrav is a chic new Israeli first name) is Director of the Center for Middle East Policy at the Hudson Institute. She also writes for the Jerusalem Post and is co-founder of the Middle East Media Research Institute that is, according to the London Guardian, connected with Israeli Army Intelligence. MEMRI feeds the media and politicians with highly selective quotations from extreme Arab publications. Meyrav's husband, Davis Wurmser, is at Perle's American Enterprise Institute, heading Middle East Studies. Mention should also be made of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy of our old acquaintance, Dennis Ross, who for years was in charge of the "peace process" in the Middle East.

In all the important papers there are people close to the group, such as William Safire, a man hypnotized by Sharon, in the New York Times and Charles Krauthammer in the Washington Post. Another Perle friend, Robert Bartley, is the editor of the Wall Street Journal.

If the speeches of Bush and Cheney often sound as if they came from the lips of Sharon, one of the reasons may be that their speechwriters, Joseph Shattan, Mathew Scully and John McConnell, are neo-cons, as is Cheneys Chief-of-Staff, Lewis Libby.

The immense influence of this largely Jewish group stems from its close alliance with the extreme right-wing Christian fundamentalists, who nowadays control Bush's Republican party. The founding fathers were Jerry Falwell of the Moral Majority, who once got a jet plane as a present from Menachem Begin, and Pat Robertson of the Christian Coalition and the Christian Broadcasting Network, which help to finance the Christian Embassy in Jerusalem of J.W. van der Hoeven, an outfit that supports the settlers and their right-wing allies.

Common to both groups is their adherence to the fanatical ideology of the extreme right in Israel. They see the Iraq war as a struggle between the Children of Light (America and Israel) and the Children of Darkness (the Arabs and Muslims).

By the way, none of these facts are secret. They have been published lately in dozens of articles, both in American and world media. The members of the group are proud of them.

# The Zionist general. The man who symbolizes this victory is General Jay Garner, who has just been appointed chief of the civilian administration in Iraq.

He is no anonymous general who has been picked accidentally. Garner is the ideological partner of Paul Wolfowitz and the neo-cons.

Two years ago he signed, together with 26 other officers, a petition organized by the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, lauthe Israeli Army for "remarkable restraint in the face of lethal violence orchestrated by the leadership of the Palestinian Authority," which is certainly news to the Israeli peace forces. He also stated that "a strong Israel is an asset that American military planners and political leaders can rely on."

In the first Gulf War he praised the performance of the Patriot missiles, which had failed miserably. After leaving the army in 1997, he became, not surprisingly, a defense contractor specializing in missiles. It was alleged that he landed non-competitive Pentagon contracts. This year he obtained a defense contract for $ 1.5 billion, as well as a contract for building Patriot systems in Israel.

Therefore, there can be no better candidate for the job of chief of the civilian administration in Iraq, especially at a time when contracts for billions of dollars for reconstruction have to be handed out, to be paid for by Iraqi oil.

# A new Balfour declaration. The ideology of this group, that calls for an American world-empire as well as for a Greater Israel, reminds one of bygone days.

The Balfour declaration of 1917, that promised the Jews a homeland in Palestine, had two parents. The mother was Christian Zionism (among whose adherents were illustrious statesmen like Lord Palmerston and Lord Shaftesbury, long before the foundation of the Zionist movement), the father was British imperialism. The Zionist idea allowed the British to crowd out their French competitors and take possession of Palestine, which was needed to safeguard the Suez Canal and the shorter sea route to India.

Now the same thing is happening again. Last year Richard Perle organized a briefing in which a speaker proposed war not only on Iraq, but on Saudi Arabia and Egypt as well, in order to secure the world's oil heartland. Iraq, he asserted, was only the pivot. One of the justifications for this design is the need to defend Israel.

# To bet on our life? Seemingly, all this is good for Israel. America controls the world, we control America. Never before have Jews exerted such an immense influence on the center of world power.

But this tendency troubles me. We are like a gambler, who bets all his money and his future on one horse. A good horse, a horse with no current competitor, but still one horse.

The neo-cons will cause a long period of chaos in the Arab and Muslim world. The Iraqi war has already shown that their understanding of Arab realities is shaky. Their political assumptions did not stand the test, only brute force saved their undertaking.

Some day the Americans will go home, but we shall remain here. We have to live with the Arab peoples. Chaos in the Arab world endangers our future.

Wolfowitz and Co. may dream about a democratic, liberal, Zionist and America-loving Middle East, but the result of their adventures may well turn out to be a fanatical and fundamentalist region that will threaten our very existence.

The partnership of the neo-cons and the Christian fundamentalists may engender counter-forces in Washington. And if Bush is defeated in the next election, like his father after his victory in the first Gulf War, this whole gang will be thrown out.

The Bible tells us about the kings of Judea, who relied on the then world power, Egypt. They did not appreciate the rise of forces in the east, Assyria and Babylon. An Assyrian general told the king of Judea: "Behold, thou trustest upon the staff of this bruised reed, upon Egypt, on which if a man lean, it will go into his hand and pierce it." (II kings 18, 21).

Bush and his gang of neo-cons is not a bruised reed. Far from it, he is now a very strong reed. But should we bet our whole future on this?

This is Only the Beginning


Some more thought about the war (6):

# The white man's burden. A depressing thought: the Iraq war proves that in the year 2003 AD, the world has not essentially changed since 2003 BC. A military power can attack a weak nation, conquer its territory and plunder its resources. There is no world law, no world moral order. Might is right.

The weapons are of the 21st century, but they serve 19th century aims. This is a classical colonial war. Iraq is becoming an American colony, to remain so for a long time.

The pretexts come from the old colonialist phrase-book. A country is conquered in order to "liberate" the natives from their cruel tyrants. Their resources are stolen, in order to raise their standard of living, give an (elementary) education to their children, keep a colonial administration that will teach them democracy.

This is also a divine mission. The missionaries always come with the army, and sometimes even precede it. The cross and the canon, religion and oppression, the church and the plunder of resources go very well together.

For the poet laureate of the era, Rudyard Kipling, that was the "white man's burden". But when colonialism retreated, it left behind a social, cultural and economic desert, which persists in the "third world" to this day.

# To shoot a lame duck. The triumphalism of America, Britain and Israel is a little misplaced.

The only super-power in the world has attacked a little country of 26 million people, starved for years by sanctions. A mighty and well-fed army, equipped with the most sophisticated arms the world has ever seen, confronted an army that has been largely disarmed before the fighting even started. The powerful air force that controls the skies without opposition was sent against a country whose air defenses have been bombed for years beforehand.

In a modern war, control of the air is the decisive factor. Sixty years ago, when the air force and its weapons were much more primitive, Field Marshal Rommel told Hitler that the Allies' domination of the skies made it impossible for the German army to maneuver and bring in reinforcements. Therefore, he said, his army would be unable to defeat the Anglo-American forces once they succeeded in securing a bridgehead on the French coast. If we don't destroy them in the first few hours, he told Hitler, the battle is lost. The Fuehrer did not listen to his advice, and the results are well known.

If this was true then for the mighty Wehrmacht, it was true now a thousand times for the battered Iraqi forces. From the first minute on, no Iraqi tank could appear in the open without being destroyed from the air. No division and no company could occupy a position, let alone move, without the missiles and bombs pounding it to dust. Decent hunters do not shoot at sitting ducks. But that is exactly what happened in Iraq.

Not long ago I said, quoting the Bible, that the Americans should not boast before the war is finished. This is true after the war, too. There is nothing to boast about. Tommy Franks will not go down in history as one of the great leaders of armies, next to Alexander and Napoleon. If the Iraqis held on for 21 days, that itself was an achievement.

# A stupid brute. Saddam Hussein can take no credit for that achievement. As it turns out, he was not only a brutal and cruel dictator, but a stupid one to boot.

Clearly, he had never read a serious book about strategy, and did not receive good advice from his generals. That is one of the troubles of dictators, dating back to Biblical times, when Absalom, King David's rebellious son, rejected the good advice of Ahithophel: generally the dictator does not listen to advice, and the advisors tend to tell the dictator only what he wants to hear.

>From the Iraqi point of view, it would have been right to avoid battle in the open desert, where a modern army has an immense advantage, and to draw the invaders into the cities. But for that purpose, Saddam had to dispose his army inside the cities and prepare for a Stalingrad-like defense. Instead, he exposed his elite Republican Guard outside Baghdad, in the open, where they were systematically destroyed by the US airforce. Inside the city itself nothing was prepared, no plan, no command structure, no adequate arms. It fell like a rotten apple. Neither the American generals nor the commentators expected this. Neither did I.

Saddam had his chance to go down in history as the leader of a glorious, if hopeless, last stand. But now his appropriate memorial is the decapitated bronze statue that starred on television.

# The dis-information force. This war was waged simultaneously in two arenas: in the field and on television. There was hardly any resemblance between the two.

Television was an accompaniment to previous wars. But in this war, television has become an integral part of the war itself, one of its major battlefields, if not the most important one.

>From now on, TV is a component of the armed forces, along with the army, the navy and the airforce. Like them it is directed by the command structure.

Much thought and effort was devoted to this arm. General Myers, the No.1 soldier in Washington, and General Franks, the commander of the actual campaign, personally took part in the action. (It was a stroke of genius to put a black general into the center of the picture.)

The aim is to engender in the mind of the home audience, world public opinion and perhaps even in the mind of the enemy a picture of the war that has no connection with reality. That is easy, because there is no more mendacious instrument than television. He who controls it, controls the picture of reality, and thereby the mind of the viewer.

For example: in order to support the claim that the aim of the war was to "liberate" the Iraqi people, it was essential to show the Iraqi population welcoming the liberators with joy. Television delivered the goods.

Nothing easier: simply fill the frame with a hundred jumping and shouting people, in order to create the impression the a whole country is jumping and shouting. Nobody will ask: Who the hell are they? Where did they come from? Who called them together? Did they get anything in return? Aren't they, by chance, the same people who jumped and shouted a few days ago "with our soul and blood we will redeem you, Saddam?" And where are the other 5 million inhabitants of Baghdad? What do they think and feel?

During five very long hours all Western TV stations (and Al Jazeera as well) concentrated on showing a crowd of Iraqis trying to bring down a giant statue of Saddam in the center of Baghdad. A discerning eye could notice that the crowd was no more than a hundred people, certainly half of them journalists. The statue-smashers acted manifestly for the camera. But television-wise, that was "the Iraqi people". This picture will remain fixed in the mind of the world as the defining image of the "liberation".

Only Thomas Friedman, a very arrogant and very patriotic observer, independently interviewed Iraqis and reported that they indeed were glad to be rid of Saddam, but that they viewed the Americans as foreign invaders who should leave at once. Nothing of this kind was seen on CNN.

In the Iraqi campaign, every Western (and, of course, Israeli) journalist was a soldier with a job to do under the command structure. The point was reached that Donald Rumsfeld, in a Washington briefing, directly ordered the American journalists in Iraq to interview Iraqis and get stories from them about Saddam's atrocities. Sure enough, within hours such stories came pouring in.

Joseph Goebbels would be bursting with envy. George Orwell would not be surprised.

# Gunboat Democracy. How will things develop from here on? It has been said that it is hard to prophesy, especially about the future.

One thing is certain: the Americans did not conquer Iraq in order to leave. They intend to remain there for a long time, even if they succeed in setting up a puppet government. They came to conthe oil sources and the Arab region, and for these purposes they will stay on.

But even if they should wish to leave, they would not be able to do so. Without an American dictatorship taking the place of Saddam's, Iraq would fall apart. The old ethnic, religious, regional and tribal divisions would only deepen if an American-appointed puppet government were to establish "democracy".

Western democracy developed over centuries in organized communities with solid community values. Only a fool would think that it could be imposed from above, by force, on a society organized on quite different lines, by family and clan, and with quite different values. A real Arab democracy, when it comes about, will surely different in nature and appearance from the Western kind.

The mob-rule that found its expression in the orgy of violence and looting under the auspices of the US army, including the looting of hospitals, is a bad omen indeed. (It is the height of chutzpah, when the US commanders, who have destroyed the civilian infra-structure, say that law and orders must be restored by the Iraqis themselves. Thus, millions are abandoned to anarchy.)

The animosity between the Kurds and the Turks in the north, as well as the connection between the Shiites and nearby Shiite Iran in the south, will cause the occupiers many headaches. After some months of quiet (if at all), they may be faced with a Hizbullah-style guerilla war.

Will that prevent an American invasion of Syria and/or Iran? Perhaps it will, perhaps, on the contrary, it will push the Americans towards new adventures, in order to distract attention from the results of the this one.

# And Ahmad, what does he think? In order to foresee what's coming, I ask myself: what would I have thought and felt, if I had been an Arab? If I were, for example, Ahmad, a young Arab student at Cairo University, what would I feel at this moment?

First of all, humiliation. Once more a magnificent Arab hero has turned out to be a toy soldier, talking big and failing the first test. Once more an Arab army has mostly given up without a fight. (By comparison, a growing admiration for the Palestinians, who have been standing up to the mighty Israeli military machine for more than two years, who have sacrificed more than 2000 people and whose youth stand in line to sacrifice their lives.)

On top of the humiliation on the field of battle, the humiliation in the political field. A foreign invader has marched into the center of the Arab world and taken control of its resources, and the great Arab nation is paralysed, unable to react. Its cowardly leaders hold on to their seats and accept handouts from the occupier. Who will save us?

There is no nationalist Arab force able to offer a solution to the millions of young people from Casablanca to Kuwait city. No new Nasser enflames their imagination. But there is a religious Muslim force that provides comfort, answers, identity and self-respect. It also provides a weapon for removing the invaders and compelling the West to listen to Arab aspirations: terrorism.

Saddam never used terrorism. Nothing outside Iraq interested him, except if there was a to enlarge its territory . He was completely occupied with survival. The American pretense of having attacked Iraq in order to rout terrorism was a blatant and deliberate lie. And now, Ahmad thinks, after the last of the Arab armies has shown its impotence in the face of American might, there remains only the alternative of guerilla war and terror attacks.


Uri Avnery is an Israeli writer. His website is: He is closely involved with the Israeli peace movement Gush Shalom.

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